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Posted by on Jan 31, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

Gender Differences In School: Research Gobbledygook?

The Washington Post has a story "Decoding Why Few Girls Choose Science, Math" which looks at Thomas Jefferson High school. And it reaches some conclusions — but runs smack, dab into the rational analysis of Betsy Newmark, who is also a teacher.

Read her entire post but here’s a small taste about how she picks apart research that’s generalized – and asks some questions that beg to be answered before any stock is put in this research:

I somehow doubt that boys are more exposed to blocks than girls. Every
little girl that my daughters played with had sets of blocks. And the
girls played with them, but the girls definitely liked the stuffed
animals and dolls better.

Why don’t they turn the stories around and look at the boys who aren’t exposed to dolls in their childhood?

Excellent question…And:

Why have a computer systems lab where you downplay the presence of
computers? Huh? Isn’t that the purpose of the class? Do you think girls
are so dumb that they won’t realize that the class is about computers?
And what girl is intimidated by the mrere presence of a computer?

I
say that if the school can turn out successful students who go on to
have great college careers, don’t mess with success by tinking with
things here and there to cater to some perceived problem with gender
balance. The article doesn’t mention if there is the same gender
disparity in the advanced humanities classes. I suspect that there
might be. Why isn’t that a problem to be addressed?

Perhaps because it wouldn’t  make for such a high-profile "high concept" study, because it’d get into too many grey areas that make a simple broad-brush conclusion more difficult?

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